God has blessed me with many incredible gifts, but (after salvation) the greatest gift He has given me is my wonderful wife, Kimberly. Next month we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. We have laughed together, cried together, had a child together, and served Christ together for two decades (as either married or dating). I am so thankful to have the privilege of living out my life married to Kimberly.
As a husband, I can honestly say that in 18 years of marriage, I have never woken up (not even one time) and said to myself, “You know what? I plan on being a terrible husband today!” Not one day of my life has begun with that as my goal. Further, as a Pastor, I have had the privilege of officiating the weddings of nearly 100 couples over the past 14 years (one of the blessings of being in a college town and a church with many younger people in it.) Before I officiate a wedding I always want to meet a few times in advance with the couple to get to know them and to discuss God’s plans and purposes in marriage. In all my conversations with these couples, I can also say that not one future husband or one future wife has ever told me, “I plan on failing as husband,” or “I plan on failing as a wife.” Being a bad spouse is NOWHERE on a sane person’s “to do” list.
What I have found, however, is that though this is not our goal, many husbands and wives spend lots of time feeling like they HAVE flunked or ARE flunking “Home Life.”
Though I desperately desire to be a good husband, I struggle with feelings of failure in this area as well. Sadly, I do not think I am alone in this arena. I have even talked to husbands and wives who think they have so failed in their roles that they have no hope in their marriage and are considering divorce or have stopped working on their marriage altogether, resigning to live a distantly connected yet unhappy life.
Why is this? Why is it that we so desperately want to be a good spouse, but so often feel like a failure? Self reflection, Scriptural study, and conversations with others have helped me to see two primary reasons for our feelings of failure in our married roles:
First, the presence of sin in a marriage makes us prone to feelings of guilt and failure. Every husband and every wife (if you are married this includes you and your spouse) are sinners. This means that to some degree the residue of anger, unforgiveness, lust, lies and other sins gum up the gears of our marriage. There is no person in the world in a better position to know your sinfulness than your spouse, AND you know it. That is why when we relate to our spouse, often we feel “naked and ashamed” like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned. We feel like failures as a spouse because we are sinners, and in marriage that sin is known. God is calling us to live righteous lives, yet too often we feel wretched.
Second, a lack of clarity in our understanding of marriage roles makes us feel like failures. Think about it, we desperately want to be a good husband or a good wife, but what does it mean to be a good spouse? What is the job description? Many times, we cannot articulate what we are supposed to do. So, in place of a good job description we fill this vacuum with a nebulous combination of ideas that are always “just out of reach.” Without fully understanding her call of what a Christian wife is to be according to the Bible, a woman can feel defeated because she does not:
- Decorate to a level that inspires “Pintrest interest.”
- Have a family that BEHAVES as perfectly as her Christmas Card picture LOOKS.
- Look like a supermodel. All the time. Every day. With no effort.
- Make her own laundry detergent from organic products grown in her own backyard.
Similarly, if the Christian husband does not have an accurate definition of what it means to be a husband, he can feel defeated if he cannot:
- Upgrade his home’s electrical circuits (do the whole thing in 220 . . . 221 . . . whatever it takes).
- Be the guy Dave Ramsey calls for budgeting tips.
- Able to recite the entire New Testament in Greek and Latin.
- Make $100,000 a month in a fulfilling job that allows you be home by 4:00 PM each day.
It has been my experience that many spouses ASSUME they know what God is calling us to as husbands and wives, yet too often we are ignorant what that role really is.
As a husband and as a Pastor I find myself often retreating to Ephesians 5:22-33 for personal meditation or Pastoral mediation in order to encourage people struggling with either of the two reasons mentioned above. In these verses, Paul outlines the role of husband and wife. His basic call to both husbands and wives adds clarity to what God really wants from each. Meditating on these verses helps me as a husband to know what God is calling me to do. I should aspire to live into this definition of role, but I should also find it freeing. Many of the things I feel defeated about in my role as husband are things I added to the list, not God, and ultimately my life is about pleasing Him!
In addition to a clarification of roles, I also see hope for marriages made up of sinful people (i.e. all of them). Wives are called to submit to their husbands willingly, and husbands are called to lead their wives in a loving and sacrificial way. This is a high calling that no doubt will be difficult for the Christian husband or wife to live out perfectly. However, God has not left the husband or wife alone in their endeavor. He has given them four powerful gifts to help them live out a truly “Christian marriage”:
- First, He has saved them from their sins. The ultimate consequences of sin were paid for in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross so that husbands and wives (and any person who trusts in Him) can have their sins forgiven. Not only does He save us, but Jesus cleanses us and presents us righteous to God (Ephesians 5:26-27). A Christian marriage is a union between two sinful people (yes) . . . but it is MORE than that. It is also a marriage between two FORGIVEN people, and this makes an amazing difference.
- Second, He has given them His Spirit to indwell them, empower them, and compel them to live lovingly and submissively with each other. Ephesians 5:22-33 is closely tied to Ephesians 5:17-21 where the Spirit of God is seen to have the ability to control believers to follow God in a supernatural kind of obedience. One of the marks of a Spirit-filled person is the way they relate to their spouse (according to Ephesians 5:18-33). Praise God, one of the reasons He has given His Spirit is to empower Christian marriages with His loving presence!
- Third, He has given them an example. Like we saw last week in Ephesians 5:1-2, Christians are called to imitate Jesus Christ, including HIs love. The love, forgiveness, and support we have in Christ are THE BLUEPRINT for imitation for husbands and wives in marriage.
- Fourth, He has given them time. The marriage covenant is something that cements two people into “oneness” (5:31). Knowing that you will be together for the duration of this life is a powerful motivator to work on the marriage. Marriage works when the husband and wife are not looking for ways OUT of the marriage, but when they are committed to staying IN the marriage for the long haul. In a sense, God “burns the ships” in the harbor when couples get married, forcing them to make a new life together, not longing for a return to someplace else.
So, if you are married and desire to be a good spouse, have a personal marriage retreat in Ephesians 5:22-33 and find God’s plan and provision for the marriage you have always wanted.
This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, I will be preaching a sermon based on Ephesians 5:22-33. This message will be part 10 in our 12 week series on the book of Ephesians that we have entitled “Packed.” If you are in the area this weekend, we would love to have you join us in either our 9:30 or 10:50 worship services. We will also be serving communion this week in both services and celebrating the baptism of 7 individuals. Join us Sunday!
For more resources related to this study of Ephesians click on the following links:
- Packed Series Intro
- Ephesians 1:3-14 (Study Prompt #1)
- Ephesians 1:3-14 (Study Prompt #2)
- Ephesians 1:3-14 (Study Prompt #3)
- In Crowd (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #1 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #1 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 1:15-23 (Study Prompt #1)
- Ephesians 1:15-23 (Study Prompt #2)
- Ephesians 1:15-23 (Study Prompt #3)
- It’s a Wonderful Christian Life (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #2 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #2 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 2:1-10 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 2:1-10 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 2:1-10 (Study Prompts #3)
- An Unbelievable Offer (Devotional/ Sermon Preview)
- Packed #3 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #3 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 2:11-22 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 2:11-22 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 2:11-22 (Study Prompts #3)
- An Uncommon Denominator (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #4 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #4 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 3:1-13 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 3:1-13 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 3:1-13 (Study Prompts #3)
- Tethered (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #5 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #5 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 3:14-21 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 3:14-21 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 3:14-21 (Study Prompts #3)
- The Power to Keep Up (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #6 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #6 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 4:1-16 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 4:1-16 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 4:1-16 (Study Prompts #3)
- Unboxed, Not Just Purchased (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #7 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #7 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 4:17-32 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 4:17-32 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 4:17-32 (Study Prompts #3)
- Change in Style (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #8 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #8 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 5:1-21 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 5:1-21 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 5:1-21 (Study Prompts #3)
- Taught and Caught (Devotional/Sermon Preview)
- Packed #9 Sermon Discussion Questions
- Packed #9 Sermon Audio/Video
- Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompts #1)
- Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompts #2)
- Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompts #3)